As second kahuna in the no-name HDTV surfing contest after big-wave Vizio, Westinghouse always seems to have something to prove. The 47-inch TX-47F430S LCD rides hard with an extralong board's worth of features, including four HDMI inputs, 1080p native resolution for a relative pittance, oodles of picture settings, and a great selection of power-affecting modes. Despite the strong effort, however, this surfer wipes out when it comes to looks, and while we liked a lot of its picture quality characteristics, its lighter black levels don't help it stand up. If you can look past those somewhat washed-out blacks, however, the Westinghouse TX-47F430S is among the best big-screen LCD bargains available. It's also available in a 42-inch version, the TX-42F430S, with identical features and, we assume, similar performance.
While some people may use the complementary "understated" to describe the appearance of the Westinghouse TX series HDTVs, we'll call their styling "lackluster" by modern flat-panel HDTV standards. The screen of the TX-47F430S is bordered by charcoal gray on all sides that lacks the luster (gloss) found on many newer sets, but it looks pretty drab in comparison. Brighter gray is used along the bottom of the set to differentiate the microperforated speaker grille, and the matching stand is--surprise!--gray as well. The color scheme might work in an industrial lab, but we think many HDTV shoppers want a bit more pizzazz in their living rooms. Once you pull away the advertising stickers, the only accent is a small, defeatable power indicator light and the admirably subtle Westinghouse W. The TX-47F430S measures 46.1x32.3x9.3 inches including the stand and weighs 83.4 pounds; sans stand the panel measures 46.1x29.5x5.5 inches and weighs 70 pounds.
Westinghouse's remote is a basic model that nonetheless has direct-access keys for all of the input types, which we greatly admire. Although not backlit, all of the keys feel well placed and nicely differentiated by size. As usual with off-brand remotes, we found some head scratchers, namely the dedicated backlight key at the top of the wand where we'd prefer, if anything, a one-key toggle for the picture modes.
The set's menu layout leaves little to be desired, with the many options logically arranged into submenus. We especially like the inclusion of text explanations along the bottom, although, being inveterate nitpickers, we did detect some mistakes. The label for color temperature in the calibration menu reads "Switch 3D combfilter feature on or off" while the same label in the main video menu drops a "t" in saying "Adjust the picture to differen color temperature."
One extra featured on some previous Westinghouse models is the Quick Install Matrix. Selecting this option in the setup menu calls up a page that looks ripped from the user manual--and looks great on the 1080p screen--with a quick setup guide, a graphical grid explaining the input types and which sources to connect to them, and even the customer service phone number. With all that good newbie info, we can forgive ol' "Westy" for using the Matrix to pimp its line of wall mounts and other products.
The principal item on the spec sheet of the Westinghouse TX-47F430S is its native resolution of 1080p, which translates to 1,920x1,080 pixels on the screen. Those pixels allow the set to display every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, while all other sources, from 720p HDTV to DVD, to standard-definition sources, to computers, are scaled to fit the native resolution.
We appreciated the Westinghouse's range of picture tweaks, starting with four nonadjustable picture modes and a fifth User mode. (Update 08-21-07) When we first published this review we indicated that the User mode was independent per input, but that's not the case for the four HDMI inputs. Unfortunately they all share the same User settings, so adjusting each one individually for the four HDMI sources is not possible. We have updated The Bad accordingly, and thank AVS Forum for the catch.
In addition to the standard video-menu settings such as contrast and saturation (color), there's a User Calibration menu with some additional options. The most useful is the ability to fine-tune the three color temperature presets for red, green, and blue gain, which really let us hone in on the 6,500K standard (see the Performance section). We also liked that the calibration menu didn't time out after a brief period, as the main menu did. The calibration menu also lets you defeat deinterlacing and the 3D comb filter (although there's really no good reason to do so), as well as the Dynamic Contrast function, which we left off for critical viewing because it adjusts the picture on the fly.
Aspect ratio control is fairly standard, with the same three options available for both HD and standard-definition sources. Happily, the default Standard mode shows 1080 resolution sources with no scaling or overscan, so we recommend using it unless you see interference along the edge of the picture. If that happens, as it did with our DirecTV feed of CNN, for example, switching to the overscanned Fill mode removes it, although it also obscured some of the ticker.
The TX-47F430S includes more than the standard cast of power-related features. In addition to the usual sleep timer and defeatable front-panel LED, there's a mode that turns the set off automatically after one minute if it doesn't receive a signal; another that engages an "energy saver" mode; and a "power-on plug" mode that allows the TV to turn on automatically when it receives power to the cord. The energy saver mode is unusual because it doesn't affect energy consumed when the set is turned on--it controls only standby power consumption. When it's left in the default "off" position, the set consumes a lot of power (around 40 watts) when turned off because it's primed to provide a picture nearly instantly. We recommend you turn the saver on because, while the image takes around 20 seconds to appear, the set consumes only a nominal 0.7 watts in standby. Simply engaging the power-saving mode saves about $25 per year in energy costs. See the Juice box below for more details.
One of the TX-47F430S's claims to fame is its prodigious input selection. After the 60-inch Vizio VM60PHDTV, it's the only HDTV we've reviewed to have four HDMI inputs, one of which includes analog audio inputs to ease connection to DVI sources (although we tested another and it also worked perfectly with a DVI source). There's a VGA-style computer input along with a pair of component-video inputs. Lower-quality sources get just one composite and one S-Video input, which unfortunately share one set of analog audio inputs. There's also the standard RF input for cable or to connect an antenna to grab stations for the ATSC tuner, an optical digital audio output so the tuner can pass surround soundtracks, and an analog audio output.